Just Do It by Barbara Zeman for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily Date

Just do it.  I am certain that you all have heard or seen those three words plastered all over shoes for well over 25 years. JUST DO IT is a trademark of the shoe company Nike, and one of the core components of Nike's brand. The “Just Do It” campaign launched in 1988 was one of the top two taglines of the 20th century with it being both “universal and intensely personal”.  But where did this idea come from? And, what does it mean?


Today’s readings all appear to be about faith.  But, what are they really telling us?  In the first reading the Pauline Hebrew community is grousing to God about not having their prayers answered, about long suffering without any assurance of an end. So why does God reply by telling them to write down their experience? Perhaps God is telling them that there is more than one way to look at life. That suffering is in the eye of the beholder … that fear must not freeze us.


Suffering, while part of the human condition comes from within, much of it stems comes from an inability to let go of perceived expectations (the expectation that we are privileged, that the world will meet our needs, that we are in control). All suffering is related to fear … a fear that polarizes one so that all movement stops.


Just like the Hebrews who went forth—not fearlessly but in spite of fear 
and called others to follow the Way of Jesus. We are all being called to trust God above all.   In spite of the greed of the society around us we are being called to be generous to everyone, to witness to compassion, to stay open to all sides of the situation.  In the midst of hate and discrimination and oppression we are being called to love our neighbor and to love our enemies.


Haven’t we seen that suffering amplified even today … in fact … in the past week suffering has been ramped up to fever pitch as the republicans and democrats who refuse to see any but their own agenda have all but shut down the government of the U.S.


Five years ago as I was getting ready to be ordained, the preparation was just as much about security as it was about preparing the altar, the liturgy and getting ready the vestments.  Because I was the first woman ordained in Chicago it was a big deal.


Was I afraid? Absolutely! 


My mom had only asked me two questions, when I told her about what I was going to do. ‘Will you be excommunicated? Will they hurt you?’  My answer was yes to both questions.  However, I had no idea what to expect.  I walked through my fears step-by-step and breath-by-breath.


Since then I have seemingly lost everything. My understanding of church went first when the pastor who I had worked for refused to do a funeral for one of my mentees because she had become ordained. Then Doyle died. Mom was next to go.  After a long and painful illness with moves first to a nursing home and then into hospice, with only me at her side, she went home to God. And finally, I left my home of 18 years.  My transitions were huge, exhausting, mentally and physically, and often tearful. I never would have thought my life could have changed so drastically in 5 years.  But, what I have gained you, the Dignity community. You have called me to be your leader, your servant priest and I have found family once again.


When we fail to see the bigger truth … a truth that puts trust in God we loose sight of the forest through the trees.  So, God is telling us to take a breath … step back and write down what we see, then look at what is behind and beyond the violence, the destruction, the suffering.  Look at it from all angles and let go of the illusions that we have created to pump ourselves up in this world. While fear and suffering are a part of the human condition God is showing the Hebrews (and all of us) how to walk through that fear and see things the way they really are.


In 2 Timothy we once again hear the word “trust”.  We are told not to be afraid but to have faith in God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and ACT on the gifts that God has given to us.  Be yourself and trust that inner voice that speaks to you in the silence.


How appropriate a message on this day when we celebrate all who have had the courage to come out and be themselves. All who have trusted themselves enough to act on the gifts God has given us, walk through our fears and live the life we were meant to live.  God calls each of us in unique and varied ways to act on who we are.


Each of us is being asked to look more closely at the root of our suffering and our fears … and turn them over to God. 


So, what if we don’t feel we have enough faith to get through the suffering and fear that the world heaps upon us?  What if we feel marginalized and forgotten? What if we fear being alone? Just how DO we increase our puny faith?  Jesus answer comes out loud and clear “Just do it!”


Oh ye of little faith … it is enough to fake it till you make it. Trust.  God’s got your back.  Just do it.